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Old 08-13-2010   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 3
I've decided to buy my 1st Boat, now what ?

Hey there-

So after several summers renting boats and floating the Colorado: Fruita-Westwater, I've decided I'd like to get my own boat, and start my lifelong obsession with this new sport.

I researched a cataraft vs. a raft, and decided to go with a raft.
I have realized that a 14' boat gets cramped with 4 guys and gear, so am thinking a 16' oarboat is the right size.

I'd like to find a used boat to start out with.

I am still undecided about PVC vs Hypalon boats, any insight to the Pros/Cons on each would be appreciated. I would be trailering the boat, and so don't plan on unrolling it up each time I need to use it. Any thoughts on the Pros/Cons of each ?

As with any potential high risk sport, like Avy Classes for backcountry skiing, I'd like to take a "Swiftwater Rescue" ? course, to gain the knowledge of river characteristics and know the dangers. I would continue to do mellow floats and slowly work up to higher class rapids.
Any suggestions on courses ?

What else should I be thinking of, besides planning on buying all the gear; kitchen setup, groover, dry boxes, etc etc ?

I'm in Denver, and would gladly buy beers in exchange for wisdom from an experienced boater.

Thanks for any advice you can provide!


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Old 08-13-2010   #2
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
Hey Rick-

Welcome to the community of whitewater rafting!

Great idea to do a WWR class. If you are new to rafting, a guide school is also a good idea. Even though they'll be paddle-rafting vs oar-rig, you will learn a ton of good skills from experienced boaters. Both kinds of training teach you different things and are a good foundation for beginning boating. You'll learn what kind of gear you need for safe boating there also, a good pfd, good shoes, throw bags, pin kits, helmet, etc, etc. Here are two books, I like them both.

River Rescue 4th Edition - Book
Whitewater Rescue Manual Book

16' raft sounds good for 4 guys and in an oar rig. A 14' would be fine for 4 guys paddle rafting, but once you put a frame on and throw gear in, it can be cramped. I'm assuming the gear is for multi-days? If it is just a day trip, a 14' works, and is used quite commonly, but I agree they are cramped that way. You might also consider a 15'.

I recommend finding a package used, and it doesn't matter what as long as it is one of the quality names, and there are a lot of them. Sotar, Aire, Maravia, NRS, many others. Get something with the idea that it is a starter boat, and if it works perfectly it's still a good boat that will last you years. We started with a 13' NRS otter, and within 2 years I knew I wanted something else. We bought it as a turn key package (trailer, cooler, pumps, paddles, frame, oars, etc) and we sold it for what we bought it for 2 years later. We had done some upgrades to it. We ended up buying a 14' Sotar, and I kind of wish it was 15'. I don't use it for technical water, and it's the two of us with 2 largish dogs, and a 15' would have made it just a bit easier to carry all of our gear for trips. Especially as I am planning for a late August MF Salmon (low water), I'm having to pick and choose gear to keep the boat light. So the quest for the perfect boat is never over, but we're going to stick with our 14' probably until it dies.

Used gear can be found on the Buzz swap, NRS has a site, there is a yahoo group called River Trader, Craigslist, and the good old local newspaper. Most river gear shops have fall sales also, along with boat manufacturers.

There have been quite a few threads over the years on this, try searching although it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. The required items are key to start with, such as a groover, firepan, etc etc. That's where we started so we could do our own trips and not rely on others. We still use the cheapo gamma lid/bucket groover, and will probably never spend $ on a fancy one. Instead of dry boxes, we started with rocket boxes/ammo cans and used vittle vaults for dry storage. Lots of dry bags are important too. We started with regular roll top ones (they will always leak somewhat in a beat-down) and are buying a nice one every year now, Watershed and SealLine (with the drysuit zipper) are the bomb. We just use our car camping kitchen and tables (roll) and chairs, and that works fine for us. An aluminum dutch oven is awesome.

There is a ton of great info, some of it is seriously gear-head oriented, at

Rafting Grand Canyon

You can do this with a huge range of gear, all the way from backpacking style to full-on hard core gear style.


I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 08-13-2010   #3
Dipshit with the most.
carvedog's Avatar
Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,497
16 or 14, or 14 or 16.

Pins or clips or clips or pins.

I seriously wish I had both. I have a 16. It works cuz mostly I oar boat now on multi day trips with lots of folks. I carry 4 dry boxes, cooler, wooden table and have done 4 people on top of all that. Bring it on. I have a Maravia and love it.

It seems big to paddle boat. Especially with just 4 or 5 people.

For the SF Boise, Bruneau and SF Salmon, Canyon Payette - I wish I had a smaller boat.

4 People definitely do not fit a 14 very well for a multiday unless you go backpack style - then it works great. Depends on how you run.

For me it seems like we just take more and more shit now that I have kids. Two. I know we wouldn't fit a 14.

Random thoughts provided by carvedog. thanks for playing.
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Old 08-13-2010   #4
Thronton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 665
I have a 14' NRS Otter, but it's the wider of the two versions. I like it for two reasons - stability and the extra room. For a familly of four, we can do multidays no problem, and it's a good size for the many day trips we do on the Eagle, Arkansas, etc, where larger boats at lower flows would be that much harder to manuever through the rocks and such. The 14' is also a decent size for paddle rafting, which I am starting to do more of now that I am figuring that out a bit. I guess what I am saying is that I think 14' is a great compromise size for versatility. A lot depends on how you'll use it, and for me, I want to be use it in a lot of different ways.

Definitely take a swiftwater rescue course. You'll learn a lot from it. I took one this spring, and I am glad I did. I plan to get my wife to take it next year so we're both more prepared as the kids get older and more ready for the bigger stuff. It was also good for me since I like to take friends of mine with me on trips too, I feel better about it and so do they. It's a course you'll hope you never really need to use though...

I also second the raft guide training. I wasn't able to do that this year, but hope to next spring. I am getting pretty comfortable behind the oars, but just spending a solid two weeks on the river will be great for learning how currents work, reading the river, paddle guiding, flipping rafts, etc. Besides, it's two solid weeks of rafting!

For me, the key is to just hook up with anyone that is willing to show you some lines, and start running as many different stretches of water that you can. Pumphouse is another good beginner stretch that has a long season. Step it up a bit from what you've been running, you'll be fine. The Eagle is great in the spring, and Shoshone is good in the fall. A few times down a couple of those and you'll be ready for something like Brown's, which gets you a lot more experience manuevering, and is a ton of fun.

I'd be happy to meet up with you on any and all of the above when you're ready with your raft. And as rafts go, I'd go with Hypalon myself, since it will last a lifetime. Like others have said, there will always be times when you wish you had a different size. You may end up selling it after a couple of years, but if you plan on keeping it a long time, Hypalon is the way to go. You are in Denver, stop by and talk to Mark and Judy at AAA, they were very helpful to me in picking a boat and getting geared up. Down River is also a great place to stop by and ask questions. Be warned though, it's like a candy store - you're gonna want to buy a lot of stuff in those places! LOL

Get yourself the Colorado Rivers and Creeks and Southwest Paddler. Those are good books to have on hand. I also have the Complete Whitewater Rafter that has some good basics in it for rafting. There's also a DVD called Let's Get Wet for rafting, haven't seen much else for rafting, it's mostly kayaking when it comes to video.

See you on the river!
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Old 08-16-2010   #5
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 3
Thats a ton of good info, thanks everyone! I really appreciate it.
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Old 08-16-2010   #6
The Russian
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SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,380
Similar thread on the same topic, take a look:
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Old 03-14-2011   #7
gobigohome's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 152
I am in the same situation as you, I would like to get a raft. The Wife likes to be on the river but know wants to switch from our kayaks to a boat so we can do longer trips. We started boating out in CO buy pumphouse rancho area and shashoni. Now we live in OH and have been down to the Gauley and New. I still think we are going to go with a 14 ft what does everybody think?

What is everybodies thoughts about PVC vs Hypalon boats also cosidering the price differences.
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Old 03-14-2011   #8
gobigohome's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 152
Does anyone no of any guide classes near the New River or the gauley or around the Ohiopyle
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Old 03-14-2011   #9
TOUCHDOWN, Mississippi
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 144
I second the guide class. It's how I got my start, and a few others I boat with as well. I still take an occasional trip or two for the company.... Plus... The pro deals rock!

You will learn a LOT of information in a short time.

Almost every raft company does it in the first of the season. It's pretty funny to watch the rookie guides train on the ark... Last years low flows in May made it especially funny.
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Old 03-14-2011   #10
Kayak/SUP Instructor
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The High Ground, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,325
<----- If you have kayaking friends that like to be safety boaters <cough> <cough> They don't need a ride in your boat, just somebody to carry a drybag and beer.. some I know will even split for your gas.

"Let us cross the river to the other side and rest beneath the shade of the trees." ~ Last words of Thomas Jonathan ''Stonewall' Jackson
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